Monday, September 22, 2014

Beggars of Life - A round-up of reviews

Beggars of Life, Louise Brooks' thirteenth film, was officially released on this day in 1928. The film is the story of a girl who - after killing her step-father - tries to escape the law with a young vagabond. She dresses as a boy, they hop freight trains, and encounter a group of hobos in their attempt to reach safety.


The film stars Wallace Beery as Oklahoma Red, Louise Brooks as Nancy (The Girl), Richard Arlen as Jim (The Boy), Edgar "Blue" Washington as Black Mose, and  Roscoe Karns as Lame Hoppy. The writing credits for this William A. Wellman directed Paramount film go to Benjamin Glazer and Jim Tully (screenplay), adapted from the book by Jim Tully, with titles by Julian Johnson.

Beggars of Life was both popular and well reviewed, though some critics including Louella Parsons were put-off by Brooks' gender switching attire. Even families were divided. The Beatons, father and son critics associated with the Film Spectator, thought differently about the film. Here is a round up of magazine and newspaper reviews and articles drawn from the Louise Brooks Society archive.




Allen, Kelcey. "The Screen." Women's Wear Daily, September 22, 1928.
--- "Wallace Beery plays the lead, with Richard Arlen and Louise Brooks. All of these stars outdo themselves in this picture. Wallace Beery talks in this picture, sings a hobo song and ends with an observation about jungle rats in general."

M., J. C. "The Current Cinema." New Yorker, September 22, 1928.
--- "Of these three pictures it is the only one weakened by a conventional plot, a plot for which I see no reason except that it gives Louise Brooks a chance to wear boy's clothes and to jump a freight, both of which she always does, however, with an imperturbable maidenliness, generally to the synchronized accompaniment of sentimental music."

G., P. "Beery Scores in Character Role in Beggars of Life." Morning Telegraph, September 23, 1928.
--- "Louise Brooks, in a complete departure from the pert flapper that it has been her wont to portray, here definitely places herself on the map as a fine actress."

anonymous. "Week's Offerings at Buffalo's Playhouses." Buffalo Courier-Express, September 24, 1928.
--- "And then there are those two capable and good-looking youngsters, Louise Brooks and Richard Arlen, who make the most of splendid parts and excellent casting and achieve enviable performances."

Cohen Jr., John S. "The New Photoplays." New York Sun, September 24, 1928.
--- "The acting, especially that of the principals, Richard Arlen, Louise Brooks, Robert Perry (who plays Snake) and I suppose Wallace Beery, as Red, is especially fine."

Hall, Mordaunt. "The Freight Hoppers." New York Times, September 24, 1928.
--- "Louise Brooks figures as Nancy. She is seen for the greater part of this subject in male attire, having decided to wear these clothes to avoid being apprehended. Miss Brooks really acts well, better than she has in most of her other pictures."

Johaneson, Bland. "Wallace Beery Comes Into His Own." Daily Mirror, September 24, 1928.
--- "Louise Brooks does the best work of her career as the stolid little murderess, fugitive among the hobos."

Watts Jr., Richard. "On the Screen." New York Herald Tribune, September 24, 1928.
--- "Incidentally, Richard Arlen's juvenile vagrant, so delightfully played on the stage by James Cagney, is an excellent piece of work, while Louise Brooks's delineation of the girl fugutive is so good as to indicate that Miss Brooks is a real actress, as well as an alluring personality."

Zimmerman, Katherine "Beery Scores in Character Role in Beggars of Life." New York Telegram, September 24, 1928.
--- "The handsome Louise Brooks is cast as the maiden in the case and performs this part with her usual composure and talent for expressing starry eyed wonder."

Sid. "Beggars of Life." Variety, September 26, 1928.
--- "Miss Brooks looks attractive, even in men's clothes, and scores in the two or three scenes where she is placed on defensive against male attackers."

anonymous. "Music and the Movies." Musical Courier, September 27, 1928.
--- " . . . one of the most entertaining films of the littered season."

anonymous. "Wallace Beery in Startling Tully Drama at the Imperial." Ottawa Citizen, September 29, 1928.
--- "Intriguing, interesting, with a cold, half-insolent beauty of face and figure masking a hidden fire, Louise Brooks is here allowed to flame on the screen for the first time. In Beggars of Life, a new Louise Brooks bursts forth to grasp the first big chance of her career."

Mueller, Anita. "Screen in Review." St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 8, 1928.
--- "Tully has woven his story around a girl murderess (Louise Brooks) seeking to evade the law who joins a band of tramps."

Nie. "The Week's New Films" St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 8, 1928.
--- brief review; ". . . and Louise Brooks, the latter showing considerable talent in the role of the girl who wasn't done right by until the eighth reel."

Marsh, W. Ward. "Beggars of Life. State." Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 15, 1928.
--- "The picture is a raw, sometimes bleeding slice of life . . . . Both Arlen and Miss Brooks appear as effectively as I have ever seen either of them. . . . Miss Brooks, considering her record, does surprisingly well."

Heffernan, Harold. "The New Movies in Review." Detroit News, October 22, 1928.
--- "Louise Brooks, who always looks gorgeous in beautiful clothes, suffers a bit from the man's garments called for by the role, but she does well."

Patton, Peggy. "Wisconsin Film is Different." Wisconsin News, October 22, 1928.
--- "Wallace Beery, Richard Arlen (also playing in Wings) and Louise Brooks play the featured roles. All do praiseworthy work. By the way it is a sound picture and Wallace Beery speaks a few lines and sings a song. His speaking voice is splendid."

Beaton, Donald. "As They Appeal to a Youth." Film Spectator, October 27, 1928.
--- "Another good bit was a scene where Louise Brooks describes a murder. It is much the same way in which Victor Seastrom showed thoughts in Masks of the Devil. Miss Brooks' face was superimposed upon the action which took place during the murder, and thus the audience got her reaction to everything. It was very interesting."

Beaton, Welford. "It All Depends Upon How Interested We Are in Hoboes." Film Spectator, October 27, 1928.
--- "Wellman handled the romance between Louise Brooks and Dick Arlen with sympathy and good taste, but I could take no great sentimental interest in it, but whether the fault is mine or the picture's I don't know. Perhaps it was because Miss Brooks was not equal to the demands of the romantic scenes, which made Arlen's splendid work greatly overshadow hers."

Parsons, Louella O. "Story of Hoboes Offered at 'Met'." Los Angeles Examiner, October 27, 1928.
--- "I was a little disappointed in Louise Brooks. She is so much more the modern flapper type, the Ziegfeld Follies girl, who wears clothes and is always gay and flippant. This girl is somber, worried to distraction and in no comedy mood. Miss Brook is infinitely better when she has her lighter moments."

McNulty, John. "Mr Beery Burst Into Song." Columbus Citizen, October 29, 1928.
--- "Miss Brooks only needs remain as warm to look upon, and she can have any role she wants as far as we're concerned."

anonymous. "Beggars of Life Scores at New Tudor." New Orleans Item, November 12, 1928.
--- "Vitaphone helps the story along with music that is fitting and well arranged. The Hallelujah I'm a Bum rhythm helps the story's speed."

Hanifin, Ada. "Charlie Murray Hit at Warfield." San Francisco Examiner, November 12, 1928.
--- "Louise Brooks, as the girl who murdered her guardian to save herself, and turns hobo to escape the vengeance of the law, is an actress who will bear watching. She has a vivid personality. Her attempts to walk like her 'adopted' pal, Jim, so her masculine disguise will not be discovered: her emotional reactions finely restrained as she lies beneath the stars with a haystack as a roof, and knows 'that all she wants is peace and a home,' give her opportunity to disclose some very effective acting in a subtle manner."

C., J. O. "Palace." Memphis Commercial Appeal, November 27, 1928.
--- "Louise Brooks essays the difficult role of a girl tramp escaping from police who seek her for murder. She is a star of no little amount of personality - the sort she would have to have to enable her to carry the type of role she has in this picture through successfully and that she does. If her career in pictures is further enhanced through her work in Beggars of Life, it will not be underserved."


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